Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Real Madrid in Sunday’s ‘Clasico’ may have put them four points clear at the top of La Liga but they will be kicking themselves for not taking a host of second-half chances and grabbing the head-to-head advantage.
If Real manage to draw level on points with their great rivals over the remaining 10 games — and they have what looks on paper like a slightly easier run-in — they will snatch the title as they beat Barca 3-1 in Madrid in October.
Head-to-head record is used before goal difference to separate teams with equal points and Real famously pipped Barca to the title in 2006-07 despite having scored 12 fewer goals and conceded seven more.
Any disappointment Barca coach Luis Enrique and the players may be feeling on Monday morning will be outweighed by their joy at seeing off Real at the Nou Camp, thanks to a superb Luis Suarez goal 11 minutes after halftime.
Watched by almost 100,000 fans packed into the giant stadium and millions more around the world, Jeremy Mathieu had put Barca ahead in the 19th minute before Cristiano Ronaldo levelled for Real in the 31st.
“For the moment it is the most important goal I have scored for Barca and it has an extra significance considering who we were playing,” a jubilant Suarez, who debuted for the club in October’s ‘Clasico’ after a four-month ban for biting, told reporters.
“There is a long way to go and we know that winning the league is going to be very tough,” added the Uruguay striker. “Just like in all the leagues, you never know what can happen if you relax just a little.”
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti and his players, meanwhile, will be wondering how they let slip a match they seemed to be well in control of after Ronaldo’s leveller.
The Portugal captain was almost completely anonymous in the second half and Real’s Wales winger Gareth Bale also made little impact.
“In the end we suffered because of a slight lack of cool heads in our efforts to equalise,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
“We played too many long balls without a clear idea,” added the Italian. “It was a good hour, and 30 minutes that weren’t so good.”